ESCANABA – How many volunteer hours does it take to make an art auction happen? Fifty. One hundred. More. For the William Bonifas Fine Arts Center, this year’s art auction, “Arabian Nights – Rock the Casbah,” relied on the benefaction of many many more than that. Many more. Seriously. It’s that many.
That’s not even counting the Bonifas staff, those individuals who facilitate the event, who slog through the slough of logistics and wade through the muddy details behind the scenes. And that’s a lot of work in and of itself; in fact, if you tallied all the staff hours, stuffed them in a giant jar, then converted them to an equivalency of liquid energy and juiced it through a power grid, you could probably light up the entire town of Hermansville for nigh on a year—depending, of course, on how many Bingo nights they held at the American Legion over that time.
That aside, the work done by the staff, the hours and efforts put in by volunteers to make the art auction happen are impossible to quantify. Consider that there are 300 pieces donated to this year’s event, and even if the creation of each piece took no more than two hours (which is a ridiculous, almost insulting estimate, as anyone who’s ever attempted to create art can tell you) that would still work out to equal a full-time job for four straight months.
But let’s say you don’t even count the time invested in the art work itself. And since the staff hours don’t even exist in terms of these calculations (sorry Hermansville), what could possibly be left in terms of volunteer hours? How about a great googly-moogly’s worth.
Just ask Al Hansen, this year’s art auction committee chair. “My wife and I have had to adjust our date night.” That’s one seriously committed committee member. “The whole committee puts in a lot of work. It’s an ongoing process, starting with ideas for a theme and then including everything from promotion, ticket sales, mailings to artists and sponsors, and following up radio and television spots. It’s a tremendous amount of hours put in by this entire community.”
Hansen himself estimates that he has dedicated up to fourteen hours each week to this one event over the past six months. That’s more than 330 hours, all told. One dude. Volunteering.
Mark Ammel from Bobaloons Cafe will give up an entire Saturday to cater the event on May 10. He’ll spend ten hours at the Bonifas setting up and serving and tearing down. Not to mention the time he puts into preparation prior to the event. “I’d guess I have thirty hours or so into researching my menu, sourcing out ingredients for dishes that fit the theme.” That’s an entire week’s worth of work, on top of maintaining his own business.
So why would anyone go to such great lengths to insure the success of the Bonifas’ art auction? What is it that inspires so many people to donate their own original works of art to this fundraiser year after year?
For Hansen, the answer is simple. “I believe in the Arts Center, in what it does for this community. For students. For individuals with special needs. I grew up being a part of the Arts Center in high school. I did the first art show here, and I remember tearing out the bleachers from St. Joe’s school in what’s now the current gallery.”
It’s about community. The enrichment and betterment of this community. And Hansen, like so many others, believes in generosity and in giving back to the community. He’s no different than the countless individuals who continually donate their time and efforts to the causes they love, making this community the wonderful place it is. The Bonifas Arts Center just happens to be his cause. “Art is my first love,” he admits.
But don’t worry, his wife is his second, and their date nights will soon be back on track.